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Once upon a theme park: 3 top tips with attractions storyteller Dr. Carissa Baker

New guest demands are driving change across attractions. With customers wary of large crowds and saying no more to long lines, attractions must be more dynamic and agile than ever.

Assistant Professor at UCF Rosen and theme park storytelling expert, Dr. Carissa Baker, shares her top tips of how mid-size and smaller attractions can compete against major industry players and meet guest demands where it matters most.

Smaller attractions need to leverage the power of storytelling.

Major attractions, like Disney and Universal, have their intellectual property to leverage and draw crowds back in.

However, smaller attractions might not have that IP power, yet they can still tell a great story – as long as they tell it well and make it appealing to as large an audience as possible. And once you have a fantastic story, you can add in experiential moments to enhance them even further with widely-available tools, such as light projection mapping or guided tours.

Getting it right means you’re appealing to a wider audience as you’re providing them the opportunity to jump into another world and gain an experience they wouldn’t get somewhere else – including large theme parks with larger budgets.

Nostalgia is key to driving footfall and guest spending.

Disneyland has Mickey Mouse ears. Universal has Hogwarts wands. These are items that are specific to the stories those attractions tell, while providing a physical memory guests can take home. What it comes down to is offering memorabilia that reminds people of the great time they enjoyed with their family and friends.

And it’s something that smaller attractions can easily tap into. A lot of places have a rich history they can pull from to sell merchandise, like old-fashioned zoo posters or reproduction toys from the 1960s.

For instance, I visited an animal theme park recently where they introduced an entire new line of merchandise for old characters that haven’t been seen in the park for decades. But guests were excited because these were characters they remembered from their childhood. The park effectively created a sense of nostalgia that made visitors eager to purchase merchandise and made them likelier to return as a result.

Create a magical guest experience with the right technology.

Enhancing the guest experience means creating a streamlined visit that is convenient at every turn.

We’re seeing new mobile apps introduced into attractions that help guests navigate around busier areas or order food ahead of time. Or guests might wear RFID tech that allow them to skip lines, pay for souvenirs, and access VIP areas. With technology putting convenience at guests’ fingertips, they’re able to enjoy their visit more.

And what’s great about these technologies is that it’s a simple matter for smaller attractions to implement too because they have a smaller space to work with and can easily deploy tech in key touch points without a large budget or logistical headache.

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